How secure are your online accounts and connections?

In 2017, nearly 1 billion (according to Norton) people worldwide were victims of cybercrime due to a lack of cyber security, but there are many things people can do to make sure they aren’t part of a 1 to 7 ratio as victims of cyber crime.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and Cory Allred, a former Kellogg High School graduate and information security analyst with Idaho State University’s cyber security graduate program, would like to lend some of his insight for users to stay secure.

Cybersecurity is the protection of computer systems from theft or damage to their hardware, software or electronic data, as well as from disruption or misdirection of the services they provide.

“Technology has enabled us to do many things through the internet, but it has also provided a dangerous window to your personal devices and personal information,” Allred said. “When you buy something online, you willingly provide the same information used when writing a check. However other information can be collected when you make online purchases such as location, email address, the type of computer/cellphone used to make the purchase, internet browser used and potentially more information when you sign in to the site via social media.”

This information allows companies to make specific recommendations that are relevant to the user, but in the hands of someone with cruel intentions that information can be used to steal people’s identity, money, or hack and control personal devices.

What makes cybercrime so frustrating is that unlike physical theft, where the thief has to be near a person or their property, with the internet it can happen on the other side of the world.

People have made this easier than ever now with the rise and popularity of smart devices.

“With the advent of smart devices ranging from smart watches, and digital assistants to refrigerators and coffee pots all with built-in Wi-Fi internet connectivity, what was previously a small window starts to become a garage door,” Allred said. “And it becomes even more important to ensure that you keep that large door closed.”

Companies like Facebook, Target, Equifax, Home Depot, Yahoo and United States Office of Personnel Management have recently had issues with cyber security and had their systems compromised.

Allred has several easy tips for people to increase their cybersecurity.

Change default passwords to more secure passwords. Many internet enabled devices have a default password, the biggest problem is that often many companies use the same password every unit created which means your neighbor’s device could have the same password as you.

When possible, use two-factor authentication to prevent people from logging into your accounts. Two-factor authentication is a process where you have an additional step added to the login process: often this is a random code that is sent to your phone. Other ways to have two-factor authentication is through an app on your phone, which can be connected to your accounts and then generates the random code.

Install anti-virus and anti-malware software, and run weekly scans of your computer. It is very important that you check for updates or else a newer virus could be missed by the anti-virus.

Check for, and install security updates for your computer/cellphone. Many corporate data breaches happened because the company did not install a security update.

When possible limit connecting your devices to public Wi-Fi and do not perform access to your bank accounts or personal information. There are tools available that allow people to connect to public Wi-Fi and see what everyone on the Wi-Fi is doing including capturing your banking information.

Do not click on links or attachments in emails from anyone that you do not know. It is highly unlikely that you have a random relative that you have never met who wants to give you a million dollars. Also if you never entered a drawing for a gift card, Amazon won’t be randomly contacting you to give you a $50 gift card. All of these are ways of “phishing,” a method that bad guys use to get your username and password. Do not reply to these.

“All of the wonderful conveniences of technology comes with a price. Technology allows us to do so much, but when it comes to securing all the things that modern technology does for us, it starts getting difficult,” Allred said. “Adding security to things in the cyber realm of things adds extra steps and things become a little less convenient because of the requirements to secure your internet traffic. There is always a tradeoff between security and convenience. We can either have security, or we can have convenience.”

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